As COVID-19 spreads, closing the digital divide is more critical than ever



A small wireless internet provider called Wave Wireless wants to offer access to a county in Kansas. 

Galen Manners

If there’s one thing the coronavirus has shown, it’s that we all need high-speed internet access to survive in an age when everyone’s stuck at home. Unfortunately, 18 million Americans don’t have that access. 

It’s a staggering number, especially when you consider how essential online access is for work, school and just about every facet of our lives. Broadband access is as critical as running water or electricity, even if it isn’t anywhere near as available. 

The problem cuts across different groups, from farmers in Iowa where service providers find it too costly to build out networks, to impoverished families in Manhattan who can’t afford internet service. 

It’s a problem virtually everyone thinks needs to be solved — even if nobody can agree on a solution. 

The Daily Charge podcast explores this issue in a six-part series of podcasts, where we interview industry experts and executives to get their perspectives on how to address the digital divide. 

Episode 1: How did we get here? 

CNET senior reporter and regulatory expert Maggie Reardon sets the stage with a look at the past issues and regulatory maneuvers that’ve created the gap we see today. (Aug. 24)

Episode 2: Why it’s still a problem

Internet Innovation Alliance Chairman Bruce Mehlman discusses some of the political, regulatory and technical hurdles we face. (Aug. 25)

Episode 3: A look at the National Broadband Plan

Blair Levin, who served as the executive director in charge of producing the National Broadband Plan under the Obama administration, discusses what’s changed since the plan debuted in 2010. (Aug. 26)

Episode 4: What about wireless?

Verizon Chief Technology Officer Kyle Malady discusses cellular’s role in getting more people access to the internet. 

Episode 5: Is 5G the answer?

Qualcomm’s Dean Brenner, senior vice president of spectrum strategy and technology policy, and Alice Tornquist, vice president of government affairs, discuss how 5G fits into the solution. (Aug. 28)

Episode 6: How do we get out of this jam?

Morgan Kurk, chief technology officer of infrastructure provider Commscope, discusses how current technology can help close the gap, but how political hurdles still need to be cleared. (Aug. 29)


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